BENGALS TE TYLER EIFERT VS. STEELERS RILB LAWRENCE TIMMONS
Whether it's been Bob Bratkowski or Jay Gruden, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has had a history of throwing Bengals offensive coordinators into checkmate. But Gruden has a couple of new pieces that can challenge the Grand Master, particularly the club's first-round pick as the Bengals get their two-tight end offense into gear.
Eifert and Jermaine Gresham each had solid games in Chicago with five catches while Gresham broke three tackles and Eifert two, according to Pro Football Focus.
"It's going to be interesting to see what Dick does. How does he cover the tight ends?" wonders Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham. "If he stays in base, will he be able to cover the pass? If he goes nickel, can he stop the run?"
The 6-1, 234-pound Timmons may be Pittsburgh's best defensive player right now. Last year he became the first Steeler since Joey Porter the decade before to tie or lead the team in sacks, interceptions and tackles. Last week he played 68 snaps, the same as strong safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor.
"That's an interesting matchup because both teams would probably say they like that matchup," Lapham says. "Eifert and Timmons are both big-body guys that can run. They're big enough to be factors in the running game, but they also run around well enough to do damage in the passing game."
LeBeau won't want to face the Bengals in nickel situations because it leaves the Steelers vulnerable to the run. But as long as Eifert and Gresham are on the field in pass-or-run situations for the Bengals, Gruden can keep them guessing.
According to PFF, Timmons had two passes thrown his way and both were completed for a total of 32 yards last week against the Titans. Complicating matters for the Steelers is that their secondary is banged up with starting cornerback Cortez Allen on the shelf and third corner Curtis Brown doubtful. Throw in running back Giovani Bernard, and there are a lot of guys to cover.
"It's the trickle-down effect," Lapham says. "They have to decide if they want to put Polamalu on Bernard, but he's not as explosive as he once was. Gresham played really well in Chicago, so if you force them to make some hard decisions on who to cover, it helps other guys along the way."